Contributed by Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath

An Invitation for Summer:  Going to the beach?  The mountains?  A get-away trip for relaxation, refreshment and rejuvenation?  Why not take some time to express your own personal theology.  Wrestle with it by yourself or with others.  Regardless of your religious tradition and heritage, I think we all incorporate our life experiences and learning into a theology that is “operational,” that allows us to live in the world day-by-day, making decisions and direction our actions. What might yours be?

Here’s a reflection with some of my own ideas.

Revelation:  Torah—in its broadest sense—is the dynamically evolving product of the Jewish people’s ongoing encounters with God. For all of the Torah that has been written, printed, bound, cataloged, distributed and studied, there exists still more Torah struggling to be born within the Jewish people. Our encounters with God never cease and only need to be recognized as such for God to permeate our lives. We construct rituals, symbols, words and worlds wherein we seek to let God in, to come face to face with the wholly Other.

Religious Authority/Commandedness:  We are 100% commanded. We are 0% willing to be commanded. The intervening increasing/decreasing percentages represent our dialogue with God, our effort to discover how actions unfold God for us, and our eternal hope for meaning in this life. We confront how our unwillingness to live other than just for ourselves leads to death and destruction for others and ourselves. We confront how our being commanded requires action before comprehension. We confront how our turning back (repentance) and our circumcising our hearts bring us more health of body, mind and spirit—how they bring us closer to God and how they provide direction for us.

The Nature of God:  We cannot know the nature of God. We can be in relationship with God, through which we discover God. Harold Schulweiss’s critical question for what he terms “predicate theology” is “not ‘Do you believe that God is merciful, caring, peace-making’ but ‘Do you believe that mercy, caring making peace are godly?’ (Evil and the Morality of God, p. 122 as quoted in Sonsino/Syme, Finding God, p. 156).  Revelation within the Jewish community over long centuries continually speaks to the point of discovering what is godly—resting on the cornerstone of the prophet Micah’s dictum that God requires us to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”  We are observing God’s commandments when we are doing godly things. We can know what godly things are through God’s past, present, and future—God’s ongoing revelation to the Jewish people – individually and communally. The nature of God beyond this is speculation which deters us from the task at hand—bringing more people to an understanding that doing godly things brings peace and wholeness—sh’leimut.

Evil:  We and others who live close to the 0% bring about evil. When we answer to the voice of self-interest and no other, we endanger everyone around us. The larger the voice of self-interest, the larger the danger. We concentrate often on preventing great evils and we ignore the small evils which change lives more directly, resulting in a culture of pain and despair, leading to more evil ꟷ Free moral choice skewered and impaired by the actions of others.

Suffering:  It exists. Why me? Why any of us? Why not me? Why not any of us? Responding to being commanded means doing godly things to ameliorate suffering on an individual, communal and world-wide level while at the same time discovering and repairing the underlying evil which is responsible for human-engendered suffering. Does God cause suffering? No. Has God created a world in which suffering is possible? Yes. Will God abandon us? No. Can God stop all suffering? No. Who/What can? In partnership with God, much suffering can be alleviated. Beyond that, we do not—maybe can not—know. We live, hope and pray that with God, doing godly things, we repair the world and bring about the messianic age. God—think global—act local!!

An Answer

Interfaith Banner

Submitted by Board Member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“Prayer cannot bring water to parched land, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city, but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.”   Abraham J. Heschel

Five years ago, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I gathered with fellow clergy and laypeople to wager our hopes on an indifferent city.  We called ourselves the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding.  We were Catholic, Protestant, Baha’i, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Jew, Pagan, Unitarian Universalist, and Hindu.  We had issued an invitation to the people of Hartford to join with us at the Cathedral of St. Joseph for an evening service “United in Prayer, Healing with Hope.”

We arrived early, proceeding to the robing rooms downstairs – our shoes echoing in the cavernous space.  I was told it seated over a thousand.  Why this place, I thought.  It is massive, massively Christian, massively empty.  How can we possibly bring people together here?  Are people ready to reach out to one another across a gulf of painful memories, and be among strangers on this day of all days?

It wasn’t until it was time, and we had moved down the aisle and up the chancel steps and turned around to face the sanctuary that I had my answer.  The Cathedral was filled to overflowing.  Wall to wall, a sea of faces looked back at me – all ages, all colors, wearing all colors, Sunday best and work clothes and vestments.  And on their faces was courage.  When my turn came to speak, I put down my papers and reached out to them, saying:

“Before I begin, take a look around you.  Go ahead, take a good look! This place is full, full of people of different faiths, different walks of life.  How amazing it was to process down this aisle and turn around and see all of you.  This is truly the real answer to fear and hate.  All of you, here, right now.  It’s you.”

We cannot undo evil, but we can undo its effect on us with enough care and enough time and enough hope.  Together.